Did Paul Write 1 Timothy? (Part 2)

Probably_Valentin_de_Boulogne_-_Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles_-_Google_Art_ProjectAs my church family goes through the book of 1 Timothy over the next couple months, I want to share what I am learning as I prepare sermons to preach to the kids I have the privilege to minister to.
Yesterday, I began a two-part series looking at the authorship of 1 Timothy. The Pastoral Letters are the most hotly disputed letters that Paul wrote. Of all letters traditionally attributed to Paul, these three are most disputed. Today, we will look at two more reasons for dispute and briefly evaluate them from a more conservative perspective.

Reason #3: The style of the Pastoral Letters differs from other letters written by Paul.

A common argument for non-Pauline authorship is that the method of communication or style of writing. The argument here is simply that critical scholars do not believe the Pastorals “sound like Paul.” Critical scholars contend that the style of the Pastoral Letters differs from the style of other letters that Paul wrote. Scholars believe key Pauline themes are absent from these letters, which clearly means Paul did not write them.

But this argument and reasoning is highly unsatisfactory (at least in my mind). Not only are countless Pauline themes imbedded throughout the Pastorals, but is it really that farfetched that Paul’s style could change based on his recipients and the situations he is addressing? Even though the change in style is often over exaggerated, the subtle changes actually prove the genuineness of Paul’s authorship. It would be strange if the style of Paul’s letters never changed in the least in light of the fact they are addressing various recipients and situations.

Reason #4: The false teachers and false teaching seems to be much later than Paul’s day (Gnosticism)

The biggest argument from critical scholars that leads them to date the Pastoral Letters much later than conservative scholars is the Gnosticism argument. Not only in 1 Timothy, but also in letters like Colossians, critical scholars believe the false teaching mentioned in the letters is an early form of Gnosticism. Gnosticism was a false teaching that the church combatted in the second century. If the author is dealing with early forms of Gnosticism, it is nearly impossible to say that Paul authored the letter.

There is reason to believe a form of what would later become known as Gnosticism is present in the church at Ephesus, particularly with the author’s use of the word gnosis to describe the heresy (1 Tim. 6:20). Some scholars believe the reference to genealogies references Gnosticism as well, believing that they refer to gnostic aeons (1 Tim. 1:4; Tit. 3:9).

A big issue with this argumentation is an overemphasis on the use of gnosis. Paul uses this word 22 times elsewhere in the New Testament where Gnosticism or any elements relating to it are not in view at all (see Knight, 26-27). There is also what I see as an error in interpretation regarding the genealogies. It is a true stretch and product of erroneous preconceived notions that would see the reference to “endless genealogies” as referring to Gnosticism. The wrong approach to the law and Jewish genealogies is more likely the case in the Pastorals, which makes it more likely that Paul is the author.

Is it possible that the author of the Pastoral Letters was addressing a form of Gnosticism? Well, technically, yes. But this does no harm to the argument for Pauline authorship. Scholars are uncertain of the origins and development of Gnosticism, so is it possible that some early remnants of Gnosticism existed in a booming economic and religiously diverse city like Ephesus? Absolutely. In the words of scholar J.N.D. Kelly,

“It is in fact unrealistic to look to the well-known Gnostic, or near Gnostic, systems of the seconf century for light on the teaching that provoked the Pastorals…It is best defined as a Gnosticizing form of Jewish Christianity…There is no need…to look outside the first century, or indeed the span of Paul’s life, for such an amalgam of Jewish and Gnostic traits in the Levant” (A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles [HNTC], 12).

There are other reasons to support Pauline authorship, including the close relationship with the recipients of the letters (Timothy and Titus). We see each of these young men in Paul’s life elsewhere. The personal nature of the letters makes it unlikely that a pseudonym was used. And while it is technically possible that someone using a pseudonym could have construed these situations a century or so later, it is highly unlikely. Plus, if that were the case it would be entirely disheartening due to the disingenuous intent of the author.

Scholar, George Knight believes the content of the letters themselves provide enough information to conclude that Paul is in fact the author:

“The self-testimony of the letters is most explicit in the identification of the author in the first verse of each letter, but it is also found in the repeated and pervasive personal references that the author makes about himself and about his relationships with the addressees and other individuals. On this background, it is not difficult to understand why the almost unanimous consensus of the church until the nineteenth century was that the letters were from Paul the apostle” (The Pastoral Epistles [NIGTC], 6).

So, with Knight and the 1900 years of Christian interpretation, I feel we are safe and within reason to conclude that the apostle Paul authored 1-2 Timothy and Titus.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

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Did Paul Write 1 Timothy? (Part 1)

Probably_Valentin_de_Boulogne_-_Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles_-_Google_Art_ProjectMy church family is currently going through the book of 1 Timothy on Sunday mornings. My pastor is preaching through this book to the congregation, and I am preaching through this book to the children. I have greatly enjoyed this method so far as it gives me the opportunity to better learn from my pastor as he prepares his sermons and when our sermons are in sync it creates a better post-sermon atmosphere for conversation in the home.
As we go through this series, I would like to share some things I am learning about 1 Timothy, preaching, kids, prep, or anything else I feel may be of help to some of you. Today and tomorrow, I want to take a look at some preliminary issues regarding 1 Timothy.

The Dispute of Paul

This may come as a surprise to some of my Christian friends, but there is great dispute over whether or not Paul actually wrote some of the letters in the New Testament bearing his name. While there are certain letters that no one disagrees was written by Paul, there are others in which Pauline authorship is doubted. There are three letters from Paul in particular that probably are in highest dispute: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.

These three letters are better known as the Pastoral Letters because they are written to young pastors and deal with church polity and conduct, as well as Christian living. While Paul’s name is attached to each of these letters, and though from the casual reader’s eye there is no reason to doubt that Paul wrote them, modern scholars have serious concerns that Paul did not pen the Pastoral Letters at all. Although the church held that Paul wrote the Pastorals from the early church through the 1800’s, the modern/liberal theological movement of the 1900’s, which is alive and well today, began to question authorship of nearly all books in the Bible. Critical scholars nearly are in consensus in their denial of Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Letters.

Over the next two days, we will look at four reasons given by critical scholars as to why they believe Paul did not write the Pastoral Letters. This is highly important to discuss, because the difference between Paul writing this letter in the 60s AD or someone else writing it in the second century AD is of tremendous. And as you will see, the integrity of both the authors and text itself is at stake in the evaluation of authorship.

Two Things to Keep in Mind

Here are a couple things to keep in mind while reviewing the following claims of critical scholars:

(1) Scholars and truly anyone evaluating evidence cannot help but be influenced and even biased by cultural situations and academic expectations. So, if there is a preconceived notion that Paul did not write certain letters bearing his name, it is much easier to interpret data in that light, and vice-versa.

(2) Many assumptions must be made when evidence is slight or lacking completely. These assumptions often fall to biases or preconceived notions that can cause the evidence that is present to be skewed.

Let’s look at two of the four reasons why scholars doubt Pauline authorship of the pastoral letters and quickly evaluate them. We will look at the other two reasons tomorrow.

Reason #1: Using pseudonyms to write letters was common practice in the Hellenistic culture of the first century.

The argument goes something like this: In the Greco-Roman first century culture it was commonplace for people to use pseudonyms when writing letters. This was especially true when they were writing in the line of someone’s tradition. And since much of the pastoral letters contains elements of Pauline theology, it is likely that someone, either a contemporary of Paul or more likely a later “disciple” of Paul, would have written this letter and ascribed it to Paul.

Problems with this common assertion are mostly ethical. While it is possible that someone other than Paul used his name as a pseudonym, since he was highly influential, the content of the letter would be filled with bold face lies, fictionalized events, and fabrications.

Reason #2: The pastoral letters do not fit well within Paul’s overall ministry.

The question scholars raise here is this: Can the pastoral letters be fitted within the framework of Paul’s ministry as recorded in Acts and in his other letters? Modern scholars doubt that they do. An example they give is that there is no evidence of a man named Onesiphorus ever visiting Paul when he was imprisoned, such as is recorded in 2 Timothy 1:16. To me, this is unsatisfactory and assumes non-Pauline authorship from the start. Because for those who believe Paul wrote the pastoral letters, 2 Tim 1:16 is the occurrence of Paul describing this visit. Just because Luke did not include it in his historical volume (Acts) or Paul did not mention it elsewhere does not mean that it did not happen to Paul.

What’s worse with many of these observations and assumptions is that it paints an incredibly unethical picture of the author. So, Paul is just lying about Onesiphorus, someone writing for Paul is lying, or a later author simply fictionalized the event.

This reason also seems to fall on its face when passages like 1 Tim 1:12-14 are considered. The author describes himself as one who was “formerly a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” This fits perfectly within the framework of Paul’s ministry. Should we take this passage as referring to someone other than Paul who had a similar experience? We would be taking a great leap to makes such an assertion. It is much more likely that the one who claims authorship is the Paul of Acts 9 who was converted from his life of blasphemy and persecution.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.